Chromatic Black in the Colourist Palette


medium size oil on canvas
15 F
©adam cope

Chromatic Black in the Colourist Palette

Experimenting with a new mix for ‘black’. Lets call it a ‘chromatic black’ (as does Dan Smith oil paints) in the hope that it’s more colour friendly than soot (lamp black)& burnt bones (deadly death black).

To make chromatic black, the mix is basically the same as the transparent watercolour mix of a bluey green PG 7 pthalo viridian & a bluey red magenta. This gives a very blue black. I like it in watercolours but when mixing down with white in oils, I find it way too blue, so I add some opaque Indian Red to pull it back over to a broken neutral, more grey than blue.

These last five years I’ve been using dioziane violet (normally … but often with some burnt umber) as black. Looks like black but is ‘cleaner’ in mixing on palette than the soot & bones. But.. it’s very slow drying & is complicated to work with in colour mixes. Especially with the warm colours. So I’ve tended to isolate it & not allow it to mix with the other colours. Which thus isolate my black values… making them too black? Too moch like ‘black holes’ or black cut outs. This is exaggerated by photography’s very poor performance in registering colour in very dark values. Result : not enough fluid run down through the upper mid-tones?

In the above painting, I’m using more yellow ochre than cadium yellow pale, thus softening & muting even more the mid tones.

Same old connundrum of bringing Values into harmony with Colours, especially for my preference for a colourist palette of heightened bright colours.

Anyway, the mistletoe makes fun circles doesn’t it ? 🙂

Colour Study in Oil

”The Sluice Gate’

Small Size Oil on Masonite
23 x 25 cm
© adam cope
100 euros ex P & P
The small study is an effort to simplify & to prioritise colour over detail & tonality. Just a study, just a little inkling of an idea… Take it further into a fully resolved large size oil?

It is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. (Henri Cartier-Bresson)

How difficult it is to be simple. (Vincent van Gogh)

Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge. (Winston Churchill)


Heightened Colour in Photography

heightened colour vs. ‘accurate’ colour

The same question of heightened colour vs. ‘accurate’ colour (what ever that means) applies to photography. Just as it does in painting.. How much do you ‘bump’ the saturation up? The loss is a smooth gradient, of how one colour runs into another. We live in colour sataurated world & taste are for the more”Next comes the fact that the most accurate photos may not be the most pleasing photos to many people.

In reality, many consumer grade cameras offer a simple color shaping matrix that is designed to return pleasing color that results in few complaints from consumers. Most consumers, for example, prefer a little extra sharpness and pop (contrast) in photos. They also like green grass to look really green even when in reality it might be a little yellow/brown. As you begin to move up to high end or dSLR cameras, we see more of a shift toward color accuracy and less of that extra “pop”, but there is often still a balance between accuracy and that “wow” factor of a photo that really leaps off the paper.”
Steve’s Digicams – Tech Corner – June 2006

Fauvist Barns 3 : Red in Landscape Painting

‘Sechoir à Tabac 2’ (Tobacco Drying Barn)
Oil on MDF panel
30 x 40cm (approx 12 x 16 inches).
©adam cope
for sale

Red in landscape painting acts as a magnet

Red in a landscape acts as a magnet for my eye. The red oxide corrigated tin door catches my eye every time I drive past. Red barn & red oxide earth, blue sky, black shadows. I go for compositions that prioritise colour, though not I don’t systemmatically heighten every colour.
Heightened colour = where the colour is pushed back to the most saturated, most intense. Back to ‘pure’ colour straight from the tube, the ‘mother’ colour of the mixes.

Same barn as in ‘Sechoir à Tabac 1’. Same issues. Muted colour (‘anti-fauve barn’) or heightened ‘fauve’ colour:

…paint a rusty barn & keep it browny rust , rather than let it go over into heightened colour RED. –  Adam in the post  Fauvist Barns 1 : Muted Red & not Heightened Colour

..trying to keep a barn door rusty brownish red, rather than letting it slip into heighten, saturated colour RED. With a painter’s confession – there’s always apart of me that wishes to paint all bright & fauve. Or least prioritise colour in a composition.  – Adam in the post Fauvist barns, heightened colour…Vlaminck & Kandinsky

‘Sechoir à Tabac 1’
30 x 40 cm.
Oil on Panel.
© The Artist.
150 euros via PayPal

POST-SCRIPTUM : well…. why not? I  want red? I’ll give myself red. Here’s one of my painting that’s red, primary red & with no subtle deviations…

‘Three Cherry Trees’
30 x 40 cm
oil on board
© the artist

2017: POST SCRIPTUM … Here’s a green barn. A tobacco drying barn with planking painted green. Fun!


Fauvist Barns 1 : Muted Red & not Heightened RED
Fauvist Barns 2 : Fauvist Barns, Heightened Colour…Vlaminck & Kandinsky
Fauvist Barns 3 : Red in Landscape Painting

Sunset 3 Jan 2009
Oil on MDF panel
30 x 40cm (approx 12 x 16 inches).
© The Artist.

Painting of the winter sun hanging a in clear sky

Sometimes the sun is a round ball in the sky, shining weakly, pale against a smokey sky. Other times it’s too bright to look at, blindingly bright, at which times you can’t see it as a round ball as your retina is blasted out by the photons of luminousity. TIP : don’t stare at the sun, but keep it just out of vision by keeping it hidden behind the brim of your hat.
Sunset 21 Dec 2008
Oil on Canvas
38 x 48 cm
© the artist
for sale via PayPal

Plein-Air Paintings of the Sun by Monet, Turner & Levitan

Claude Monet
‘Impression Sunrise’
48 x 63 cm – Musee Marmottan, Paris
(photo :Wiki Commons)

Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise has a rather natty little button where you can strip the colour (hue in PS) out of the entire painting (note that the green tints in Monet’s orginal painting have already been stripped out on the repro at WebExhibts) & another button where you can diminsh the tonality of only the sun & not the sky. (select colour >levels in PS).
“The sun is set against the dawn, the orange color against the gray and the vibrant force of the sun against its motionless surroundings. To many spectators, the sun undulates or pulsates slightly. Why is this so? The sun is nearly the same luminance as the grayish clouds. Notice how the sun nearly disappears if you remove the color. (Click painting to reset.) This lack of contrast explains the painting’s eerie quality. “

Adam says : OK that’s true but this sensation is heightened by the fact that red is the one colour that really ‘disappears’ when you strip the chroma out of it. Red is tonally ‘weak’, somewhere around a lowish mid-tone. Vagrant, the tonal value red is difficult to judge as the fire’ in it’s chroma is so vibrant. Try the above exercise with a yellow sun & it’s less startling. Anyone tried it with a green sun? 😉

JMW Turner – The Scarlet Sunset

JMW Turner
The Scarlet Sunset
circa 1830-40
Watercolour and gouache on paper
134 x 189 mm
The Turner Collection. Tate Britain

Here’s the above painting desaturated in Photoshop via greycale (does anyone know why this should give a different result than desaturation via contrast (diminished to zero)?). The sun doesn’t disappear into the sky. This makes sense as yellow suns happen before red suns in a sun set & thus are higher in the sky & brighter than red suns … Maybe Turner’s yellow sun on red sky is an impossibilty, a construct of the Master of Spectacular Metrology? But then the sky is sometimes so spectacular that I have difficulty beleiving it myself, and don’t expect anybody looking at a painting to belive it either Actaully there’s fault here: most peple haven’t spent as much  ime observing the skies as I have… this tends to be a countryside things, and most people live in urban settings, where the sky is difficult to see well & unobstructed. Another example of the human race becoming removed from the non human natural enviroment..
Or , more simply, Turner found a source of very good & very opaque cadmium yellow gouache whilst on the Continent & wanted to use it to fullest effect? 😉
An example of paint what you want & not what you see?

Issak Levitan – Haystacks. Twilight.

Issak Levitan
Haystacks. Twilight.
Oil on cardboard.
The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
There’s another Levitan sunset which I can’t find on the web. It’s a weak red sun against a steely blue sky over a marsh. I don’t trust the colour repro in the above photo but I like the how the sun is just about to sink below the the bar of stratus clouds & hence is just about to loose it’s perfect roundness.

Always learning…


Warm & Cool Colours in Painting

Some colour theorists confute the notion of warm & cool colours, saying it is far too culturally relative to be constant. Red in one culture is perceived as cool whilst in another it is considered warm. Weither or not scientists use the concept of warm / cool is up to them, IMO. As painters, I believe it to be essential. As painters, we are more concerned with how colours relate to each others rather than finding definite, all embracing, verbal linguistic definitions of colour. Getting them to ‘work’ pictorially….is what interests me.

Bruce Macevoy at boils it down to saying that warm colours are more colour rich than cool colours. ie they are more intense & more saturated.

The visual push-pull that happens between warm/cool is because they are opposite sides of the colour wheel & thus give a greater contrast than a range of colours that are pre-domoninantly cool or warm colours.

La Tete de la Vallée’
Adam Cope

oil on panel
62 x 23 cm

Note how in the above painting how the turquoise jumps out & bangs against the red… maximum warm/cool contrast push-pull. A deliberate use of clashing warm/ cool.


Paintings built with adjacent colours are less contrasty & tend to give a more harmonious end-result. These colours are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel & tend not too clash, have low contrast & can have the contiguity of ‘good neighbours’.

Here is a painting built using a gamme of cool greens & blues, darks & the odds warm brown. The key is low contrast & the mood I find, is cool & calm.

‘Le Noyer’
Adam Cope
Oil on Canvas

The next painting is cool. Adjacent blues & turquoises & greens play off against high whites & yellows. The key is higher; not all cool paintings need to be glum & gloomy.

Adam Cope
Oil on Canvas


Try placing a warm colour accent on the focal point. The orange stroke is warmer than the background & thus atracts the eye… ‘Jewel in the Crown’ was what nineteenth century ‘how to paint’ books called this recipe.

’42 Degrees Centigrade’

Adam Cope
Oil on gessoed card

Again, placing the warmest colour on the focal point…

‘Abricot et Couteau # 2’
Adam Cope
oil on panel
32 x 26 cm


warm or cool ?? : this is the question you need to ask yourself when confronted with ‘tricky’ not quiet greys or could-be browns or might-be greens, colours which are difficult to perceive & even more difficult to mix.

2 Rangs de Malbec – UNFINISHED STATE

‘2 Rangs de Malbec’ -UNFINISHED STATE
oil on canvas
36 x 48 cm (8F)
Unfinished state – I could say that about myself… ‘work in progress’; hummm.

my fauvist desires

Actually I did this one a week ago. But since then I’ve been too busy with other obligations & not had the time to consider finishing this plein-air oil. In the studio. Since then the leaves have fallen off & browned off to a raw sienna rich bronze. I post a photo of the red leaves as proof. Yes I have fauvist leanings towards to heightened colour. The leaves did exist. Often people don’t believe bright colours but often this is because they have not looked enough at nature.
Yes, there’s also the plein-airist dilema of how to make light into paint….hmmm, thoughts on the back boiler as I’m to busy to paint but I’LL be back!
Off to Cahors to paint this afternoon, in the land of the malbec vine.

Sept Rangs de Cot Rouge

‘Sept Rangs de Cot Rouge’
28 x 38cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.

Red colour in autumn vine leaves

Seven Rows of ‘Cot Rouge’, a parcel of Cot (better known as Malbec) between fourteen rows of Cabernet Franc & on the otherside, I think there was a parcel of Cabernet Sauvignon rouge. If you want red colour in the autumn leaves of your vines, then malbec is your plant. BTW, this plantation had a glorious south-west aspect, the overcast evening sunlight sporadically shining through the leaves. I’ll be going back to this place for sure!

post script 2013 :

They grubbed out this field, probably beciase it was a pole-mole of too many different cepages & probably alos because i’m beginning to benieve that it(s’ the old, less intensely tended , wilder vines that give the bests colur in their leaves.

this is the second post of ‘fauvist barns’

‘Sechoir à Tabac’
30 x 40 cm.
Oil on Panel
© The Artist

 anti-fauve barns

Just updating the post  ‘Sechoir à Tabac’ (it’s about the above painting) in which I chatted about ‘anti-fauve’ barns ….trying to keep a barn door rusty brownish red, rather than letting it slip into heighten, saturated colour RED.

With a painter’s confession – there’s always apart of me that wishes to paint all bright & fauve. Or least prioritize colour in a composition.

POST-SCRIPTUM 2009 : well, hell…. why not? want red?   …….   I’ll give myself red. Call it ‘artistic license’, though I feel Kandinsky was nearer the truth when he called it ‘inner necessity’ … these battles for creative freedom seem easy when looking from the outside, but brush in hand  & face to face with one’s own ‘inner critic’ …. not to mention the hoards of outer critics who churp distainfully about ‘but it doesn’t look anything like that’)… red, my friend, my desire, I see you & I feel you. And my palette needs you. A cure for green sickness. No red without green?

Here’s one of my painting that’s red, primary red & with no subtle deviations…

‘Three Cherry Trees’
30 x 40 cm
oil on board
© the artist

Wassily Kandinsky… FLOURESCENT RED BARNS… (yes… and why not?)

I knew I’d seen a ‘fauve barn’ somewhere or other, once upon a time, and whilst idling away a lunchtime in a bookshop in Bergerac, I chanced upon the elusive fauve barn again … Wassily Kandinsky 1908….(OK OK so it’s a house and not a barn … but it IS a very red house)

What a heady & wild painting, even a hundred years later!

It’s only a few years till those abstracts of flying circles, wiggly black lines & crazy mathematical grids tha would fly out of Kandinsky’s painting & carry on vibrating long after the mundane is done with. Mickey Mouse in his Fantasia. Who could forget that?

The gaucherie that frequently accompanies break-through paintings. Whilst I remain essentially a plein-air painter, these epoch-making, mold-breaking pieces still attract me. There’s a heat, passion & a vision beyond the copyist of nature. Call it art, if you like.

Wassily Kandinsky.
Murnau Street with Women, 1908
Private Collection.Courtesy of the New Gallery, New York

Fauvisme – c’est le rouge, n’est pas? D’abord , c’est le rouge…

Maurice Vlaminck

‘Restaurant at Merly-le-Roi’
price : very probably more than you can afford.
It must have blown Vlaminck’s mind when he painted this wonderful painting. Jamais vu…never before seen, a red like you only see in your dreams or on yur palette or in true art….

‘Sechoir à Tabac 2’ (Tobacco Drying Barn)
Oil on MDF panel
30 x 40cm (approx 12 x 16 inches).
© The Artist.

Probably needs a dash more red, no? Not even a little red dot on corner of this one 😉

Fauvist Barns 1 : Muted Red & not Heightened RED
YOU ARE HERE : Fauvist Barns 2 : Fauvist Barns, Heightened Colour…Vlaminck & Kandinsky
Fauvist Barns 3 : Red in Landscape Painting

L’Orge en Dordogne, sud ouest France

33 x 41 cm. Oil on Panel.© The Artist.
Click on image to enlarge (& see without the blur).


Fields of colour, not quite colour field painting.
“When we walked in fields of gold” – Sting